The federal government has instituted fresh charges of money laundering against the immediate past National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (rtd), and has requested for his trial to be held secretly at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The prosecution counsel, Shuaib Labaran, at the resumed hearing yesterday, filed fresh charges against Dasuki and also prayed the court to among other things, grant its request for the masking of witnesses brought by the Department of State Services (DSS). Labaran also accused the former NSA of possessing some cash which was found in his house, allegedly bordering on money laundering.
But the defence counsel, Joseph Daudu (SAN), vehemently opposed the application on the ground that the case is a harmless case within a democratic setting that does not warrant secret trial.
After hearing the arguments, the presiding Judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, fixed October 28, for ruling.
In addition to the criminal charges of unlawful possession of firearms preferred against him, the federal government also filed fresh charges against the former NSA which now include alleged retention of funds which formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act contrary to section 15 (2)(d) of Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.
Labaran, in a motion on notice, applied to the court to grant secret trial of Dasuki and for security of its witnesses billed to testify against the accused.
The prosecuting counsel has brought the application to the court pursuant to section 36(4) of the1999 constitution and section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act2015.
He sought among others, an order to direct that the names and address of all its witnesses should not be disclosed in any record or report of proceedings that may be accessible to the public and that the witnesses be permitted to use pseudo name in the course of proceedings to grant to its witnesses access to a non-public route to and from the court premises and court rooms as well as to allow them use private witnesses room.
Apart from lawyers and accredited journalists, Labaran asked the court not to allow any member of the public to witness the trial and that the witnesses be permitted to wear facial masks while giving evidence against the ex NSA.
The prosecutor who argued the motion submitted that the trial would suffer setback because the witnesses will not testify without secret trial for fear of reprisal from undisclosed places.
However, Daudu asked the court to dismiss the application for lacking merit and for being frivolous. The defence counsel told Justice Ademola that the names of the witnesses were already in the public domain at the instance of the prosecution, adding that the application was a mere academic exercise that should not be granted by the court.
In a counter motion, he also applied for the restricted movement of his client to be lifted and his travelling documents released to him in order for him to have the urgent needed medical check up.
The medical check up, he said, was to have been over due since July but that he could not travel due to seizure of his passport.
He said: “We consider the trial as harmless to the witnesses. If you make the witnesses anonymous, then we may lack the ability to conduct background checks. Even in a trial of treasonable felony and coup d’état the witnesses are not hidden and we are in a democracy.
“Also for the fact that there have not been cases in this court where witnesses are being molested and in these cases it will be a case of injustice if the defence counsel and witnesses are known and the prosecution witnesses who are armed and can protect themselves are shielded. I think all the motions and counter-affidavit has been charged and this is purely an academic exercise.
“He (Dasuki) was due for medical check up before the trial and it’s necessary that he should be allowed for his medical trips in order to be healthy enough to stand trial.”
Meanwhile, the fresh charges read that “the accused was on July 17, 2015, at his house, at No. 13 John Khadiya Street, Asokoro, Abuja, found in possession of various range of firearms without requisite licence an offence punishable under section 27 (1)(a)of the Firearms Act Cap F28 LFN 2004.”
He was also accused of retaining $40,000, N5 million and another $20,000 in the same house and same date contrary to Section 15(2)(d) of Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011.
Besides, the accused was said to have on July 16, 2015, at his residence at Sultan Abubakar Road and Sabon Birni Road, Sokoto, retained another $150,000 and N37.6 million, being part of proceedings of unlawful act contrary to Section 15 (3) of the Money Laundering Act 2011.
Justice Ademola will give ruling on the application.